Lloyd Preston Brewer III, 57, stands accused of one count of murder in the second degree with a deadly weapon without premeditation over the fatal shooting of Garrett Hughes, 21, an unarmed man who died in an alleyway behind the Conch Town Liquor & Lounge on Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West on Feb. 13.
He is also charged with one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly threatening the victim’s brother, Carson Hughes, with the gun that killed the victim.
The bar itself is not owned by Brewer or his family – but is a tenant in the Searstown shopping center that they own.
The defendant admittedly fired the fatal shot and claimed self-defense in his initial 911 call and later during an interrogation. Prosecutors, however, say Brewer was not being threatened.
“I stood my ground,” Brewer told detectives. “I feared for my life.”
“Brewer said it appeared that Hughes was going to pull something from his waistband,” a Key West police detective wrote in a report obtained by WPLG. “Brewer could not identify exactly what was aggressive or threatening about Hughes’ behavior and denied having seen Hughes in possession of any weapons.”
Brewer has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
During this week’s hearing, defense attorney Chris Mancini asked for Judge Mark Wilson to sign off on obtaining hair samples from the dead man as well as witnesses in the case – to erode their credibility by showing the presence of drugs in their systems, according to a courtroom report by Miami-based ABC affiliate WPLG.
“It’s also going to be the interaction between Mr. Brewer and the other three gentlemen that provoked the incident that exactly led up to the actual shooting, their testimony whether or not they testify truthfully,” the defense attorney argued.
Mancini said that, on the night in question, the dead man and those witnesses can be seen on surveillance footage sharing an object that “with great likelihood was a marijuana cigarette.”
Chief Assistant State Attorney Joe Mansfield sought to flatly contradict that allegation – telling the judge they were sharing a small, flavored cigarette made by Black & Mild, according to Keys Weekly.
“What Mr. Mancini says he sees in the videos is not what I see,” the prosecutor said. “The only person who appears to be agitated is the defendant, who reaches into his waistband, pulls out a firearm and begins to march toward Garrett Hughes.”
A representative for the Hughes family reportedly called the defense request “totally irrelevant.”
“Hair samples cannot pinpoint a date or a time when a substance was ingested,” attorney Jeffrey Weiner said, according to WPLG.
Judge Wilson, for his part, did not entirely agree – but ruled against the defendant anyway.
“It’s not that their level of intoxication wouldn’t be relevant or helpful to impeach their testimony, but legal precedent prevails,” the judge said in comments reported by Keys Weekly. “The witnesses are not direct parties to this case and have a right to privacy.”
Mansfield has signaled that the state will argue strongly against the defendant’s self-defense claim should it be made formally in court.
“Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law is based on what a reasonable person would reasonably perceive to be a deadly threat requiring the use of deadly force to save their life,” the prosecutor previously told Keys Weekly. “And based on the video evidence that I now know frame by frame, no reasonable person would have viewed Garrett Hughes’ actions as a threat, much less a deadly threat requiring deadly force. Garrett was unarmed. There is no evidence of any ‘beef’ between them that evening. Mr. Brewer drew his gun from about 40 feet away and advanced on Garrett, who posed no threat to Brewer. It was a point-blank shooting. Truly senseless.”
The defendant is being held in the Monroe County Jail with no bond. The next hearing in the case is currently slated for May 12.
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